The optional musical accompaniment for this post is Merz's Silver Moon Ladders. No particular thematic link, I just like it.
Colleagues of mine are involved with the 'Hack the Barbican' thing that's going on at the moment and seeing that there was an event tonight at 8pm I thought I'd go along and see what's what. I'm not sure what I was expecting - something along the lines of the laptop orchestra (though that was a few days ago) or something with robots, all good fun.
As I entered the centre I bumped into a friend from the office next door to mine and she asked me if I was there 'for the meeting'. I mentioned I'd come for the event at 8 and she pointed out, sadly, that it was actually at 6 and I'd missed it entirely. However she was going to a planning meeting for further Barbican hacking and did I want to come along. Yes, why not.
So we went to an open room just below the reception desk where people had obviously been sitting together for at least a few minutes and we were very obviously newcomers. There was a guy who greeted us in whispers and made us feel very welcome, fetching a couple of chairs for us (people were sitting in a horseshoe shape, discussing something or other).
A few minutes in I realised it was one of those going round the room and talking about yourself - fortunately I managed to miss this by sitting upstream of where the person now talking was, although had I been invited to explain my presence we'd have all found out a lot sooner that I was at entirely the wrong event. I steeled myself for the embarrassingly inevitable "well actually..."
Clearly the people there had been working on something together earlier in the day, or had been to an event. I was expecting to see a few more colleagues but didn't spot any, but then the facilitator / presenter started talking about social hacking and ethics and people's response to stuff. And lots about liminal space, or liminal something or other.
I was out of my depth and began to realise that I was in that 'The Work Outing' episode of the IT Crowd, and then I hoped I'd not get the giggles.
Then someone asked an interesting question about the relationship between 'being a magician' (as someone who fools people I think) and a social hacker (hacking as in doing different sorts of tricks) and there was some interesting discussion about a period in history where subjects of an Emperor had to avert their eyes when in his presence but the Emperor's magician was allowed, despite being of a low caste, to meet anyone's gaze and interact with them etc - they were given social permission to do that. The speaker thought that magicians are also afforded that permission / respect, which I thought was quite intriguing (my boss does a lot of magic and uses it as part of his work in teaching computer science and computational thinking so I'll ask him).
Not long after we sat down I could hear some wonderfully strange music coming from outside the room - lovely ambient stuff, exactly the sort of thing I like. It was loud enough that people moved from the outer edge of the horseshoe into the middle so that they could hear the speaker better. As there was apparently no event I assumed that it was people trying out some stuff - alas it didn't occur to me that it was actually the event I'd come to see, if only I'd paid better attention to this tweet.
TONIGHT! The Circuit Bending Orchestra performs at 8pm @HackTheBarbican @BarbicanCentre @MusicHackspace full info http://t.co/A8apCJItjR
— Hack The Barbican (@HackTheBarbican) August 8, 2013
After half an hour of me being terribly British about the whole thing, and silently hungry, though actually quite enjoying myself, the tempo changed and the speaker was now going to show us some magic. But first he passed round a piece of paper for us to add our email addresses, hey why not I thought, so I might actually find out what it was all about later.
I turned to my friend and asked what time it finished - at which point she admitted she had no idea because she was at the wrong event too. Oops.
And then my dad rang my mobile, so I had a legitimate excuse to stand up while people were milling about filling in the form and rearranging themselves and head into the foyer.
By happy coincidence my dad had rung me to check that I knew about the guy (Barnaby Jack, he hacked into an insulin pump) who'd been hacking medical devices (I work on a project looking at the safety of medical devices) as there was an article in The Economist.
So I managed to have a conversation in the Barbican about hacking after all, just with my dad :)
Dear god I've just seen that the class I attended actually started at 6.30pm and we rocked up at 8. Oops. It was 'A magician's guide to better social hacking'.
Bit cross that I listened to my friend rather than trusting the vague feeling that I'd seen the Barbican's tweet, but I did enjoy everything in the end.